The Anatomy of Language: A Review of 100 fMRI Studies Published in 2009

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2010 Mar;1191:62-88. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05444.x.


In this review of 100 fMRI studies of speech comprehension and production, published in 2009, activation is reported for: prelexical speech perception in bilateral superior temporal gyri; meaningful speech in middle and inferior temporal cortex; semantic retrieval in the left angular gyrus and pars orbitalis; and sentence comprehension in bilateral superior temporal sulci. For incomprehensible sentences, activation increases in four inferior frontal regions, posterior planum temporale, and ventral supramarginal gyrus. These effects are associated with the use of prior knowledge of semantic associations, word sequences, and articulation that predict the content of the sentence. Speech production activates the same set of regions as speech comprehension but in addition, activation is reported for: word retrieval in left middle frontal cortex; articulatory planning in the left anterior insula; the initiation and execution of speech in left putamen, pre-SMA, SMA, and motor cortex; and for suppressing unintended responses in the anterior cingulate and bilateral head of caudate nuclei. Anatomical and functional connectivity studies are now required to identify the processing pathways that integrate these areas to support language.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / physiology
  • Comprehension / physiology
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Speech / physiology